Definition of the short story
A short story is a “short piece of fiction aiming at unity of characterization, theme and effect.
The authors of the modern English short story “no longer attempt to make daily life more entertaining by inventing exotic plots. Instead, modern short story writers have tended to base their narratives on their own experience; here the focus is much more on the less spectacular aspects of life, on the significance underlying what is apparently trivial. The result of such perceptive writing is perfection of form, harmony of theme and structure, and precision of style to reveal the subtleties of the human mind and of human behaviour.
Many attempts have been made to define the short story. But on a few points at least, the opinion of most critics is unanimous. This does not imply that the literary form of the American short story can be set up in a rigid way. It has undergone and will probably still undergo many changes as the literary taste and demands of the reading public also change in the course of time with new outlooks on life.
What are some of the elements that make up a good story?
a) A short story is a piece of prose fiction which can be read at a single sitting.
b) It ought to combine matter-of-fact description with poetic atmosphere.
c) It ought to present a unified impression of temper, tone, colour, and effect.
d) It mostly shows a decisive moment of life (which can entail a fatal blow).
e) There is often little action, hardly any character development, but we get a snapshot of life.
f) Its plot is not very complex (in contrast to the novel), but it creates a unified impression and leaves us with a vivid sensation rather than a number of remembered facts.
g) There is a close connection between the short story and the poem as there is both a unique union of idea and structure.
The short story is a piece of art that tries to give us a specified impression of the world we live in. It aims to produce a single narrative effect with the greatest economy of means and utmost emphasis.